“Bring flowers the fairest, bring flowers the rarest, from garden and woodland and hillside and dale; our full hearts are swelling, our glad voices telling the praise of the loveliest flower of the vale!”
The preceding few lines will be familiar to some who read this but probably not to too many. These words are a part of a thirteenth century hymn entitled “Queen of the May” and this hymn was traditionally sung during May, especially at May crowning ceremonies, in honor of Mary our Blessed Mother. Growing up at St. Aloysius on the north side, the May crowning was a yearly event as it was in many Catholic schools and hopefully it remains so; our school children crowned the statue of Mary in the fountain courtyard this past week.
May is traditionally known as the month of Mary. Centuries ago, May was dedicated to the pagan Roman goddess Flora who was the goddess of blooms. The month was dedicated to her as a way of casting our winter and welcoming in the new life of spring. As the true Christian faith spread throughout the Roman empire and the rest of the world, this festival of Flora disappeared but various practices to welcome the change in seasons remained. Beginning in the Middle Ages, a popular devotion came about entitled Tricesimum which was a thirty-day period celebrated in honor of Mary. At one time, it was celebrated from August 15th (the Assumption) until September 14th (Our Lady of Sorrows) and still is today in some places. As time progressed, this celebration of Tricesimum was merged with honoring Mary in the month of May. By the 13th century, May was becoming synonymous with being the month of Mary throughout many parts of the Church.
During this month of May, as we continue our celebration of the Easter season and the new life won for us by the risen Christ, we are mindful again of the role that Mary played in the drama of our salvation. God’s plan for our salvation in his son Jesus began with Mary’s yes to God’s will for her. We are invited daily to echo Mary’s yes to God’s will in our lives because salvation is the ultimate end of God’s will for each and every person. We honor Mary throughout the Church year, but particularly in this month, because she is our great model of discipleship and our great intercessor with Jesus her son.
The refrain to the old hymn states:
“O Mary, we crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May!”
Let us crown Mary in our hearts with our own faithful discipleship in following Jesus her son, who invites all of us to fullness of life in him.
Father Christopher House is the Rector-Pastor of the Cathedral and serves in various leadership roles within the diocesan curia, specifically Chancellor and Vicar Judicial.